Honoring Nelson Mandela: Personal Truth and Reconciliation, Part 1

Written by Phyllis.

Cognitive dissonance: an uncomfortable feeling that comes from holding two conflicting views or beliefs at the same time.

Reconciliation: making it possible for two different views or beliefs to exist or be true at the same time.

I’ve been following two stories over the past few days. The first is the story of Nelson Mandela – the significance and celebration of his life, the events commemorating his passing, and the implications of his example. I have learned more about the history of South Africa in a week than I learned in the previous six decades of my life.

What Would I Do For My Own Children?

Written by Phyllis.

I just returned from a trip to the store. On my way home I was stopped for a long time at a red light; on the corner of the busy intersection, a teenage boy with dark brown skin was waving a sign shaped like a huge arrow on which was written something about pizza, I think. It was hard to read because the young man was dancing and spinning and tossing the sign in the air. His dance moves were pretty impressive and he twirled the sign over his head and swung it around his body like a drum major. But the big arrow sign was much less manageable than a baton and kept clunking him on the head, so the overall effect was more comical than graceful.

Behind me at the stoplight was a car with two white men, probably in their 30s.

I Am George Zimmerman, Reprise

Written by Phyllis.

The jury selection process has begun for the trial of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin and claims it was self-defense, the man who identifies as Hispanic and claims the incident was not about race. I spent many hours after the shooting commenting on blog posts that others wrote about Zimmerman and his motives. Most of those posts were written by Black men.  One of those men – a friend and prolific blogger – wrote a piece entitled “I Am George Zimmerman, Sometimes” in which he admitted that in the past he had occasionally harbored the same kinds of suspicion about Black men as Zimmerman apparently did.

Fragile-White-People Syndrome

Written by Phyllis.

Given the amount of time I’ve spent over the past few months working on the copy for this website, I’m surprised when I find myself talking about anything besides race. The topic has become kind of all-consuming, to tell you the truth. To me, these conversations are always fascinating and revealing, sometimes frustrating or emotional but most often uplifting. I never hesitate to engage in them though, even when passions are running high. Maybe that’s because I’ve been called a racist – more than once – and lived to tell the story.

Why Love Isn't Enough

Written by Phyllis.

I had the privilege of being a witness to something courageous a while ago - a significant event in our collective racial healing. I was on a conference call with my husband Gene, who is White, and our partner Tod, who is Black. Gene and I have been working on trust and vulnerability for nearly 42 years so far, and I cannot say we’ve got it all figured out. We’ve been working with Tod for nearly three years, and while our partnership isn’t as challenging as a marriage, the race factor requires us to be especially vigilant and sensitive.

Race Story? What Are You Talking About?

Written by Phyllis.

When I began practicing my elevator speech, it became clear that “race story” was not a meaningful concept for everyone. So let me tell you a little about what it means to me.

We all have stories about actual events and experiences that involve race. Let's say I go to a grocery store in a Black neighborhood and discover I'm the only White person in the store. I'm hyper-aware of how people are reacting to my presence and that no one goes out of her way to acknowledge me or make me feel comfortable. I share my story over and over, any time the topic of race comes up in a conversation.

Welcome

Written by Phyllis.

So here it is – my first blog post on our new website. I will admit to having a few nervous butterflies, but mostly I’m excited about what we’re doing here and hopeful that people will want to participate. But first let me officially say Welcome!

We want this site to be a place where you feel comfortable, where you are eager to engage in the conversation and open to learning different viewpoints. We will do our best to create that environment and appreciate your feedback.

The Race Story ReWrite Project is the fulfillment of a vision that’s been taking form for many years.